5 steps for building culturally responsive online learning

By: | March 24, 2021
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School leaders who observe and evaluate teachers can play a key role in ensuring online learning remains inclusive of and culturally responsive to diverse learners.

That means these leaders need to develop their own skills and beliefs as culturally competent educators, according to a new observation guide, “Culturally Responsive Remote Learning,” published by The Leadership Academy.

Culturally responsive administrators must recognize the impact culture has had on their own identity and how it shapes their approach to education and leadership, The Leadership Academy says.

Firstly, this means centering growth and academic rigor for every online learner and ensuring that college- and career-level standards drive instruction and the teachers know whether students are meeting expectations.


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Culturally responsive leaders can also affirm the cultures of students and staff through the learning opportunities provided and the materials
used. Finally, these leaders can cultivate sociopolitical consciousness by encouraging students to question and critique social norms, practices, and systems that create inequity.

In it’s report, the Leadership Academy identifies five steps leaders can take during observations of remote instruction to promote a culturally responsive environment:

  1. Prepare for the observation: Determine the focus of each observation by choosing one or two data-driven questions that are based
    on instructional focus areas and teacher feedback.  Given the concern for security in online learning, administrators should provide advance notice to teachers of observations, who will participate and whether they intend to interact with students.
  2. The coaching conversation: Observers should focus on three elements of the remote classroom: students, teachers and instructional content. It’s also important to note of the demographics of teachers and students. The teacher may also make time for the observer to conduct a Q&A with students. It is important for the observer to gather as much data as possible.
  3. The observation: Administrators may find that those involved in the online lesson noticed different things during the observation. This may reveal biases that must be resolved as teachers and leaders build more culturally responsive remote learning spaces. It’s particularly important to recognize any presumptions made as to student engagement, rigor of remote learning and modes of discourse.
  4. Observation reflection: Before engaging in a coaching conversation with an online teacher, district leaders should review the data collected to identify themes and shape the feedback that will be provided around cultural responsiveness in online learning. The Leadership Academy’s guide provide sample questions for this step.
  5. After the coaching conversation: Observers should reflect on how they explicitly exhibited cultural responsiveness during the coaching conversation and how they can improve their own practice. This is where observers can also document the next steps in the coaching process.

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